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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

There's much Adu about being 15

 •  Adu wouldn't mind a round with Wie
 •  Ferd Lewis: Watching prodigies at play

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dressed in baggy sweatpants, a T-shirt and sneakers, Freddy Adu looks and acts like any other 15-year-old.

Freddy Adu works out with his D.C. United teammates, who play Los Angeles Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

Photos by Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

ALOHA SOCCER CUP

WHAT: Exhibition match between D.C. United and Los Angles Galaxy

WHERE: Aloha Stadium

WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

ADMISSION: $60, $42, $38, $28 and $22 for reserved seats and $20 for general admission. ... $20 general admission tickets may be purchased at all O'ahu branches of First Hawaiian Bank, with part of the proceeds benefitting the Hawai'i Soccer Federation and Friends of Hawai'i Charities. Tickets are also available at the Aloha Stadium box office: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Friday, or by phone (484-1122, (subject to user fees) and at the University of Hawai'i box office: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Friday, or by phone (944-2697, subject to user fees). ... The stadium has an alcohol free zone in the orange and blue sections F thru K.

PARKING: $5

GATES: Parking gates open at 2:30 p.m. No tailgating will be allowed.

Reclining in a chair and talking about his latest episode of "women-scouting," his nonchalant manner almost lulls one into forgetting that he is the highest paid player in Major League Soccer.

"It's been awesome so far," Adu said Monday night in a conference room at the Outrigger Waikiki. "I mean, I've been here for what, one day, and I'm loving it already."

Adu is here for a this week for preseason training with his team, D.C. United, last year's MLS Cup champion. He is one of the main attractions for thousands of Hawai'i fans hungry for a glimpse of professional soccer.

D.C. United plays an exhibition match against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the inaugural Aloha Soccer Cup Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.

"It will be fun," Adu said. "The players are high-quality, and everyone is pretty motivated, because this is our job. They can expect to see, at least on our side, for D.C. United, they can expect to see a lot of hard work and a lot of skilled players."

At 14, Adu was the youngest athlete to play in a major American professional sports league in more than a century. He was the first pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft by United, and his salary of $500,000 made him the highest-paid player in the league last season.

"When I was contemplating turning pro, a lot of people were just like, 'No chance, no chance. He's not that big, he's small. Compared to most of the other guys in the pros, he's just a little kid,' " said Adu, who is 5 feet 8 and 145 pounds. "I heard all that stuff. There's going to be people that doubt you, there's going to be people that support you. And in the end, you just have to make your own decision."

He was one of three United players to see time in every game, and was the youngest player to play (April 3, 2004) and score (April 17, 2004) in an MLS game.

But in Honolulu for the week, he's hoping to get his work in during twice-daily practices, and use the rest of his time to "chill."

"Hawai'i is in America, but it feels like you are in a whole different country," he said. "It's a whole different culture and I'm enjoying myself. You just chill, you just hang out and pretty much forget about everything and enjoy yourself."

When he did find the time to "chill" Sunday night, he went "women-scouting."

"I have a pretty broad age range right now," he said. "I go all the way up to the 20s, man. There's a lot of 15-, 16-, 17-year-old girls walking around here. A lot of them. So my teammates are like, 'Man, you are lucky.'

Freddy Adu finds the heat and humidity a bit taxing as he cools off with a gulp of water following a workout.

Freddy Adu

Age: 15

Height: 5 feet 8

Weight: 145 pounds

Birthday: June 2, 1989

Hometown: Potomac, Md.

Club: D.C. United

Key Dates

1997 — Emigrates with his family to Potomac, Md.

Early 2003 — Gains naturalized U.S. citizenship

May 2003 — Washington Post reports he agrees to a $1 million contract with Nike

Nov. 18, 2003 — Signs six-year deal with Major League Soccer

Jan. 16, 2004 — Selected by D.C. United as the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft

April 3, 2004 — Becomes the youngest athlete to play in a major American professional sports league in more than a century

April 17, 2004 — Becomes the youngest player ever to score a goal in MLS

July 12, 2004 — Named a commissioner's pick for the 2004 Sierra Mist All-Star Game

"I'm just like, hey, you've been there, too. You guys have already been there. It's my turn. You know, we're just joking around and stuff like that. It's a lot of fun."

That he can even consider dating a 15-year-old is yet another difference between the soccer phenom and his older teammates.

He appears to absorb the attention without a thought, believing it is a payoff for all the hard work and sacrifices he's made over the years.

"If you want to be the best, you have to give up a lot," he said. "For me, personally, what I did was leaving my family for 2 years to go down to Bradenton (Florida), living there, training, and growing, as a person and as a soccer player."

Adu trained at the International Management Group Academies — a prep school for elite athletes — in Bradenton and graduated with a high school diploma at 14.

At the academy, he trained with the U.S. Under-17 National Team (he's also a member of the Under-20 team), which taught him how to forge friendships with people older than he is — a handy lesson especially since he deals with United teammates almost twice his age.

"I've never had friends my age," he said. "Every girl I've dated has been older than me, at least two years older than me, to be honest. So, I'm a lot more mature for my age because I've been hanging out with these guys who have always been older."

That maturity has also helped him handle soccer superstardom, which puts Adu in a highly visible and heavily scrutinized position. More and more he understands that his role as a high-profile black athlete gives him responsibilities that extend beyond the playing field.

Adu, who signed a $1 million contract with Nike at age 13, wears a white band and a black band on his wrist, similar to the yellow "Livestrong" bracelets by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"It's called Stand up, Speak up," he said. "I'm the only one who has them now. It's addressing the racism that's going on in Europe right now. It's telling people, don't just sit back and let this happen. Speak up and stand up and help resolve this problem.

"I'm not afraid (to speak up). I'm a young black man. And if there's racism going on, I'm not just going to sit back and watch it. It's just not right. We're all the same, and we're all human beings, and the only thing that is different is the color of our skin. It's just wrong, you can't let that happen. Whatever I can do to support it, I'm there."

Not-so-surprising words for a teenager wise beyond his years.

But as quickly as the signs of maturity come they fade, replaced by a comment about the diamond studs that adorn each earlobe.

"My mom got them for me," he said. "I made her get them."

Notes

The Hawai'i Youth Soccer Association will hold the championship game of the Under 11 Girls Division of the HYSA President's Day Cup before the Aloha Soccer Cup. The championship game, scheduled for a 5:10 p.m. kickoff, will feature the HSC Bulls '94G Ka'ula and the Ka'oi Soccer Club's Express.

The HYSA Under 19 Boys All-Star Game, featuring high school seniors from around the state, will start at 3:30 p.m.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.